There is something menacing and terrible about V10 engines. They lack the vocal complexity of the V12 and they also lack the screaming elegance of flat-plane V8’s. What they have instead is pure terror.
For a few years, V10’s were all the rage in high performance cars of a particular sort. The outgoing M5 had one. The Dodge Viper had one. The Lamborghini Gallardo still has one. I once spent a working day a few inches ahead of 5.0-liter one installed in the engine bay of an Audi R8 and it sounded like Wernher von Braun on a very bad day.
We may be living in the sunset years of the V10 as performance cars increasingly make do with less cylinders and more force-fed air. Formula One abandoned the V10 engine formula in 2005. BMW abandoned the S85B50 V10—the engine used in the M5 and the M6, derived from its F1 program—last year. A menacing, high-revving, aluminum engine with 507 hp, it was a marvel, a winner of various International Engine of the Year awards for four years going.
And while the car that made it famous—the Chris Bangle-designed E60 M5—may have had the “elegance of an abattoir,” as Jeremy Clarkson put it on Top Gear, it sure is a treat to listen to as it strikes fear into the heart of some forest in this video, causing wheelspin all the way to third gear.
It will be missed.